From: The Washington Post

How to avoid the traps that produce loneliness and isolation

“Hell is other people,” wrote the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre in his 1944 play “No Exit.”

Sartre was wrong. Hell is the lack of other people, and according to the health-insurance company Cigna, loneliness and social isolation are rampant in the United States today. About half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone, Cigna found in a 2018 study of more than 20,000 U.S. adults. Barely more than half say they have meaningful daily in-person social interactions.

You might ask why there is a sudden research interest in this topic. The answer: Researchers are discovering that loneliness harms both mental and physical health. But the real question is why so many people feel isolated, when contact with others should be easier than ever.

One reason for isolation is shrinking social contact with people we don’t know. Not so long ago, strangers talked to each other a great deal in public — in buses, at the airport, in line at the bank. Why? Because there was not much else to do. The emergence of smartphone technology, promising to connect the world and end social isolation, has achieved the opposite result.

The impulse stems from a mistaken belief that solitude is more pleasant than interacting with strangers, according to psychologists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder

Read the whole story: The Washington Post

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